full story, more photos, and over 25 comments:
Geordon Roy and Guts, a stray dog the soldier adopted in
Afghanistan and brought home to Saskatchewan with the help of Albert
Wong, a retired lieutenant-commander from Toronto. photo 2/4.
Dec 23, 2012
When Jodi McMurray met Rabies, the stray dog had posted himself
outside the gates of the Canadian Embassy in Kabul, mooching food
and belly rubs off the soldiers and diplomats.
Named by the
guards at the gates, the feisty dog was "King of the Street," said
McMurray, who was in Kabul on a short trip in 2010.
that year, the Canadian diplomat was posted to Kabul. She arrived on
Christmas Eve. "There was Rabies," she said. "Of course, my heart
In a country where dogs are seen more as vermin than
pets, and frequently harassed, tortured, killed or used for
fighting, McMurray grew more attached.
"A large part of the
population can't feed themselves and their children, let alone
animals," said McMurray. "I had this voice inside of me saying,
'You've got to get him out of here.' "
lieutenant-commander Albert Wong, who now runs a communications firm
Wong brought a dog, Wutan, home after a posting
to Afghanistan in 2005-06 and ever since, has been helping others do
the same. He calls it the Wutan Project.
Rabies' name to Leo, figuring clearing customs might be difficult
with a pet named after a deadly disease, she said with a laugh.
After much red tape, Leo was on a plane bound for Pearson airport,
where Wong picked him up.
Leo is one of 12 dogs Wong has
helped bring to Canada from Afghanistan.
The first was Wutan, who
had been used for sniffing out mines and explosives. Wong wanted to
take him back.
"When we were rotating out, we felt we
shouldn't be leaving him behind," said Wong.
He found Pam
Constable, an American journalist in Afghanistan who has created an
underground pet railroad of sorts, shuttling them from all over the
country to a safe house in Kabul.
From there, they are flown
to Islamabad, Pakistan, for vet checks, shots and a "doggy
passport." Then they're flown to their future homes, many in Britain
or the U.S.
Those that come to Canada are often collected at
Pearson by Wong, who gets them on to their new homes across the
Both the U.S. and Britain have charities that help
cover costs for soldiers who want to bring pets back. Usually,
Canadian soldiers foot the full bill, which is $3,000 or more.
"It's part of our healing, for both sides, for the animal and
the soldiers. It's a pleasant connection they have with
Afghanistan," said Wong.
"This is all part of the legacy of
Afghanistan and how we deal with it. Some come back physically
wounded but all of us came back emotionally affected. If this is a
way to help some of them, great."
Erin Mather served in
Afghanistan for six months, most of it cut off from the outside
world in Dand and Panjwai districts. Every day, a small, blond dog
followed the Canadian soldiers on patrol.
The troops started
taking care of the dog, having relatives send flea collars and doggy
treats. The dog became attached to Mather, going everywhere with
Mather named her Gougoune, a phonetic version of the French
for flip-flop, which the pup had a habit of stealing from the Van
Doos posted there.
Mather's brother was stationed in Kabul,
where he heard about the pet safe house. He and Mather arranged to
get Gougoune to Kandahar, and from there to the shelter in Kabul.
Mather paid more than $3,000 just for Gougoune's flight. Wong
picked the dog up at the airport.
"She's the most expensive
mutt," said Mather with a laugh.
Now that Mather is back in
Alberta, Gougoune has helped her adjust and deal with the "grey
areas" of her experiences.
"Every time I look at my dog,
that's something really positive," said Mather. "I don't think I
would ever be able to reconcile with leaving her there. It's
probably the most positive thing I've done, for myself and for her.
Animals are truly innocent, in all the things people do to each